“Saxophonist Jon Irabagon is a subverter of the jazz form,” declares Martin Longley in his Irabagon feature in the August issue of The New York City Jazz Record. “He’s a revolutionary who’s secretly messing with the changes. He might be dismantling the music’s mechanics from the inside, but from the outside he can frequently persuade a crowd that he’s an old- school practitioner. There are few players who can so deftly stride from postbop to free improvisation, avant country to doom metal and then wander from chaotic collage-spraying to sleek-blowing fluency.”
The winner of the 2008 Thelonious Monk Saxophone Competition, Irabagon has since topped both the Rising Star Alto Saxophone and the Rising Star Tenor Saxophone categories in the DownBeat Magazine Critics’ Poll and been named one of Time Out New York’s 25 New York City Jazz Icons. Jon was also named 2012 Musician of the Year in The New York City Jazz Record and is an integral member of such high-profile ensembles as the Mary Halvorson Quintet, Septet and Octet, the Dave Douglas Quintet, Barry Altschul’s 3Dom Factor and formerly of Mostly Other People do the Killing as well as an established bandleader in his own right. The long-standing Jon Irabagon Quartet features Luis Perdomo, Yasushi Nakamura and Rudy Royston, and the Jon Irabagon Trio includes Mark Helias and Barry Altschul. Both ensembles have done numerous tours throughout North America, South America and Europe.
Irabagon has performed and/or recorded with such luminaries as Wynton Marsalis, Evan Parker, Dave Douglas, Herbie Hancock, Billy Joel, the Maria Schneider Orchestra, Kenny Wheeler, Christian McBride, Joey DeFrancesco, Tom Harrell, Conor Oberst, Kenny Barron, Lou Reed, Rufus Reid, Nicholas Payton, Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society, Jah Wobble, Michael Buble, George Cables, Bill Laswell, Tom Rainey, Mary Halvorson and Peter Evans, to name a few.
Irabagon is also the recipient of funding for three Shifting Foundation projects, a French-American Cultural Exchange grant from the Mid-Atlantic Foundation and a grant through the Stone Commissioning Series at National Sawdust. Jon has also received a 2012 Mabuhay Award by the National Association of Filipino-Americans and a 2014 Philippine Presidential Award.
Jon’s record label, Irabbagast Records, has currently released six of his own efforts, including I Don’t Hear Nothin’ but the Blues Volume 2: Appalachian Haze (with Mike Pride and Mick Barr), Outright! Unhinged (with Ralph Alessi, Jacob Sacks, John Hebert and Tom Rainey), It Takes All Kinds (featuring Mark Helias and Barry Altschul), Behind the Sky (featuring Tom Harrell, Luis Perdomo, Yasushi Nakamura and Rudy Royston), Inaction is an Action (a solo sopranino saxophone recording) and Dr. Quixotic’s Traveling Exotics (with Tim Hagans, Luis Perdomo, Yasushi Nakamura and Rudy Royston). As an educator, Irabagon has led masterclasses in Japan, England, the US, Argentina, Scotland, Norway, Mexico and Denmark, as well as leading residencies at Temple University, Columbia College and Hunter College, among others.